Lithium has no known biological function, but a variety of microbial interactions with lithium have been
described. In Eschericia coli, lithium has been found to
both stimulate proline uptake (Kayama and Kawasaki, 1976) and to be cotransported with proline (Tsuchiya et al, 1984). Lithium uptake in E. coli can also occur by cotransport with some sugars via
the melibiose transport system (Tsuchiya et al, 1983).
Lithium detoxification in E. coli is achieved through the extrusion of lithium ions by a
Na+(Li+)/H+ antiporter (Inaba et al, 1994). In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, lithium detoxification may also be mediated by efflux through a
antiporter (Rodriguez-Navarro et al, 1981) as well as by sequestration of lithium ions in the vacuole (Perkins and Gadd, 1993). Lithium ions can substitute for sodium ions (with limited efficiency) to drive the
flagellar motor in the bacterium Vibrio alginolyticus (Liu et al, 1990). Bioaccumulation of lithium isotopes by bacteria has been reported (Sakaguchi and Tomita,
bioleaching of lithium from the mineral spodumene (LiAl(SiO3)2) by fungi and bacteria has
been demonstrated (Karavaiko et al, 1980; Rezza et al, 1997).
For more information:
Medline for lithium metabolism AND bacteria
Sakaguchi T, Tomita O. Bioseparation of lithium isotopes by using microorganisms. Resource Environ Biotech. 2000;3(2/3):173-182.